Beautiful Boscastle

Classic Cornwall

Even if you aren't a photographer there is a lot to love about Boscastle.  This picturesque little village in Cornwall is always busy with tourists enjoying the village, wondering along the harbour and ascending the surrounding hills for some fantastic views of the coastline.  It has everything you would typically look for in a Cornish fishing village.

The things that make this village a popular tourist spot also make it popular for photographers.  From happy mobile phone shooters to those who take their photography a little more seriously there is something for everyone to shoot.

The Photographers View

For me though, I go to shoot the harbour.  The entrance of the harbour has dramatic cliffs on either side and the beautiful turquoise water snakes its way into the village to meet the River Valency.  There are paths on both sides allowing you to walk the length of the harbour, but for those who have a little more puff in their lungs, there are paths leading up the hills.  This is where I like to shoot from.

On this visit to Boscastle, I decided to take the path on the north side of the harbour.  The view up there really allows the photographer to make the most of the S-shaped harbour entrance.  With the sun setting in a westerly direction I was hoping that the last of the light would illuminate the hillside on the opposite bank with nice evening light.  The weather forecast was looking good and with an incoming tide, I was optimistic.


Subtle Changes

After a short ascent to the top of Penally Hill, I just had to stop for a little while and admire the view.  It's all too easy to get to your location, unpack your gear, and get shooting, but sometimes you need to pause and take in the scene.  Though I have photographed this scene a couple of times now, each visit has been unique and I wanted to walk about a little to see how I might shoot it differently this time.  I was hoping to see some Thrift flowering but unfortunately, there wasn't any.  Well, you can have everything, can you?

After taking in the view I decided on two compositions, one vertical, one landscape.  Both would include the S-shaped harbour entrance and the foreground rocky ledges, but I would shoot the landscape picture closer to sunset and include Meachard island in the composition.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 @ 20mm, f/13, 30 secs, ISO 100, Lee Filters Circular Polariser, Lee Filters 0.6 ND Grad, 4:5 crop.

Though the light isn't fantastic in the above image I do like the composition.  To get it right I had to make a number of minor adjustments.  If I was too low down, the flow of the harbour water is cut off at the bottom of the frame and if I went too far to the left the curvy pier gets lost behind the foreground rocks.  Too far to the right and the headland (Penally Point) on the north side is cut out of the frame and you lose the S shape of the harbour.  

I also had a to take into account the foreground rocks which play an important part of leading the viewer out into the rest of the image.  Overall, I had to make a lot of small tripod changes to get things just right.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 @ 19mm, f/13, 56 secs, ISO 100, Lee Filters Circular Polariser, Lee Filters 0.0 ND Grad, 4:5 crop.

It was a similar story for the landscape orientation image above but as you can see I then had to take into account the placement of Meachard island.  These aren't necessarily difficult compositions to get but you do need to pay attention to where everything is in the frame in order to get the most out this view.

Unfortunately, as you can see by the images, I didn't get the light I was looking for but I never come away from Boscastle feeling like it was a wasted trip.  It's a lovely location and even in less than optimal weather conditions you can still get good images.  It also makes you work at your composition skills as you try to get all the most interesting elements into your frame.

So if this blog has inspired you to visit Boscastle, here are my three top tips for shooting the view from Penally Hill.

  1. Take a Polariser - The waters of the harbour are a beautiful turquoise colour and using a polariser will help you take the glare of the water and emphasise those colours.

  2. Explore the Hill - There are a number of compositions to be had up on Penally Hill. Try shooting up into the harbour and village as well.

  3. Thrift - If you can time your visit, try and go there when the Thrift is flowering. There isn't a lot of it up there, but adding it when it is can really add something to a composition.

If you want to see how I went about shooting these images, check out my latest 5 Minute Photo Adventure video on Boscastle.

I'm going to try and get back to Boscastle again soon.  I've been a few times but never managed to truly capture in the way that I would like.  I have a number of compositions I like from Penally Hill but so far I have always missed out on some great light.  As with Colmer's Hill and Bowerman's Nose, I will just have to persevere until I get an image that meets my vision!

So have you photographed Boscastle before?  What viewpoints do you shoot there?  Let me know in the comments below.